can I bring a baby to a networking coffee?

A reader writes:

I can’t tell if the answer to this question is obviously “no” or if there is some leeway here.

I am about to go out on maternity leave. I will have almost four months out of the office, and while I intend to spend time with the new baby, I’d also like to use this time to keep up with my network. I’ve got a handful of requests from former colleagues on LinkedIn to “meet up for coffee” or “catch up,” which I’d love to do during this break. Is it totally out of line to bring the new baby along?

My approach would be to explain that I’m on maternity leave and so have a bit of time and would love to catch up by phone if they have time. If they push for the in-person meeting, is it totally off-base to give them fair warning that 30 minutes with me may include an infant carrier? These would all be people I’ve worked with in the past (including an old boss–to whom this question doesn’t apply since she’s already threatening to come over and see the new baby if I don’t bring her along!), and are all people who have reached out to ME for catch-ups.

Next, what about any conversations I initiate (again, former colleagues)? I’d love to just keep it to the suggestion of a phone call, but if that doesn’t seem likely, is it way off-base to say something like, “Well, I can do coffee next Thursday, as long as you don’t mind a tag-along?” Or do I phrase it more like, “Unless you’re OK with an infant along for the ride, an in-person may have to wait a few more months because of the new baby”?

If these questions are totally off base, please blame the pregnancy brain. I have 8 days to go :)

I’d say it depends on the person. If you have a close relationship with them and no reason to believe they’d be annoyed by the presence of a baby, go ahead and ask/warn them.

But if you don’t know the person well, I wouldn’t bring the baby, even if you mention it in advance and they say okay. The reason for that is that very few people are going to feel comfortable saying, “No, please don’t bring your baby,” even if they’re thinking it. So you could find yourself in meetings with the baby, thinking that everything is fine because you cleared it ahead of time, while the other person is thinking, “Why on earth did she bring a baby to a networking coffee?”

And sure, if they feel that way, they should say something ahead of time. But the reality is that many people won’t, because they feel awkward about it.

And it’s not crazy that some people wouldn’t want the baby there. Babies are distracting, after all — to both parties. They fuss, and people fuss over them, and they cry and have to be taken outside, and they have terrible diaper incidents that must be dealt with immediately, and so forth. And when you’re trying to talk professionally — even if it’s very informal — that’s a distraction. And of course, some people just aren’t baby people, and that’s okay too.

So, in sum — Ask with the people you’re close to, and delay meeting up with others until you can make it adults-only.

And congratulations!

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    It might also be worth setting up separate meetings for those (like your former boss) who want to see the baby. Something of a more social visit where you chat about the baby and are social. And something where you are talking about work/networking.

    I know that if someone wanted to have a networking coffee with me and then after I said yes asked if they could bring the baby along I’d feel social pressure to say it would be fine but if the baby distracted at all I’d feel like they weren’t really paying attention. If it came up as a last minute thing and they were apologetic, eh life happens, but plan for a sitter.

    1. Lindsay*

      That’s parsing details, and I think it’s more natural to plan for a longer meeting that covers both social and networking than two separate ones. It sounds logical to separate, but people and organic conversations don’t operate like that.

  2. fposte*

    The other issue is that this will likely limit the amount of actual networking you can get done during such a coffee, so you won’t get as much out of the time as you otherwise would.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      True, because if I were meeting with the OP, I would be “OMG YOU ARE SO CUTE **SNORRRRGGLLLEE**” to the baby the entire time anyway.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly, that or if you’re not a baby lover you’d be cringing inside. It’s just not a good idea.

        Besides, wouldn’t you want to get a sitter or have partner/dad (other mother)/other adult in family take care of the kid for a bit and give yourself some REST from having the baby around once in a blue moon?

  3. Chloe*

    Chiming in – I also feel like, being someone who isn’t totally a baby person, the baby would dominate the conversation. I’d feel compelled to ask how it’s going, the baby’s name and so forth, which doesn’t really segue that well into “I’m looking for a job” when you’re talking baby books for 20 mins out of 30. Just my $.02

  4. Ufda*

    I would be horribly unhappy if someone brought a child of any age to anything adults-only (such as a networking coffee or meeting). Children should always stay at home!

    1. Anonymous*

      Extra points for using ufda, but I spell it with 2 f’s.

      I wouldn’t be horribly unhappy, but not much would get done other than me faking being interested in the baby and all that goes with it (seriously, they all look the same to me), and next time, I’m bringing my dog. He’s a lot cuter than a baby and he’s far better trained.

      I think, if you have to ask yourself this question, you’ve already answered it. Stay close to home and enjoy this special time.

      1. OP*

        I’m the OP– and quite honestly, I’m not wild on babies myself. I love *kids* and I appreciate them, but I do understand the separation of work and family.

        However, I guess I’m trying to figure out if it is more rude to delay the in person conversation until I’m comfortable getting a sitter/someone else to watch the baby, or if it would be okay to suggest–with an easy “out”– bringing her along IF AND ONLY IF the network-ee doesn’t want to do things by phone.

        1. Aimee*

          I would probably reach out to them to schedule a phone call with the explanation that you would love to chat with them, but you aren’t ready to leave baby with a sitter yet. That will leave the opening for them to agree to the phone call, suggest having coffee at a later date, or bring the baby along.

          When I was on maternity leave at the beginning of the year, my boss (who lives in another state) was in town for some meetings and set up a lunch with me and a coworker. She didn’t care so much about connecting face to face with me…she wanted to see the baby! (Who slept the entire time. Of course).

          1. Aimee*

            Also, if you schedule phone calls, just realize that on the day of the call, baby will change their nap schedule so that they are wide awake and fussy at the time you are supposed to have the call. Babies are cool like that. :)

    1. OP*

      Here’s the thing. I have a bunch of folks that are reaching out to me wanting to meet up, and I’ve been too busy working to have time to connect with them. I’m assuming they’re looking for jobs/clients and I’d be doing them a favor meeting with them. If they turn down a phone call and insist on an in-person, is it more rude to say “I can make that work, but there will be a small sleeping newborn sitting on the floor in her carrier?” or just say “then I can’t pencil you in until January…and even then I may not have time.”?

      1. jennie*

        If you say you need to do a phone call because of the baby, then THEY suggest bringing the baby along in person, that may solve your problem.

      2. Steve*

        I think this kind if changes things. If they are reaching out to you, and you would be doing THEM a favor, you should make the situation fit your schedule and availability. If you suggest a phone meeting and they say “oh let’s meet in person,” I see no reason why you can’t say “that’s fine with me, but I’m really not at a point that Eggbert III stays with sitters, so I’ll be bringing him along.”

      3. Kara*

        Here’s the thing – the ‘small sleeping newborn’ may not stay asleep. Or, he or she may not go to sleep when you want them to. There’s an expression about the best laid plans of mice and men – well, it applies to moms of newborns too.

        Why don’t you try to schedule these meetings on a day where you can hire a sitter for a couple of hours. With a newborn at home for four months, you will probably crave adult company occasionally, and it would be a good time for you to get away and talk about something other than diapers and latch problems.

        1. Anonymous*

          Why should the OP have to pay for a sitter when the person suggesting the meeting is asking for a favor?

      4. Caffeine Queen*

        I don’t think you should worry about being rude in this case. I’ve just started my career and have had quite a bit of help from my network. All the same, a lot of the advice/conversations took place over Google Hangout, Skype and email. I didn’t need them to meet with me in person if it wasn’t going to work for them.

        If they’re pushing for an in-person meeting, you don’t have to commit to anything. You don’t owe them that. If that’s something you’d like to do, that’s fine but it’s perfectly fine to say that you can’t do an in-person meeting. Like others said below-what if you’re not ready for coffee visits and you end up having to cancel?

        Suffice it to say, if they’re the ones asking for it, they don’t get to dictate the terms.

  5. Sarah*

    I agree with AAM. Some people, like your old boss, really just want it to be more social. So use your best judgment and err on the side of caution.

  6. Anonanon*

    Of course this is not universal, but on average it seems like folks who chose to have kids (I have 3) and like them (I like mine) would be very disappointed if you showed up without your baby. We aren’t going to be bothered if your baby starts crying, and we aren’t phased by someone nursing in public, even men (I mean men aren’t phased, not that men are nursing in public…).

    Also, don’t freak out if we want to hold the baby – if we’ve had our own, we’re not going to drop (or steal) the baby!

    Now, for folks that have not had kids, don’t like kids, and/or don’t want kids, there’s nothing wrong with that (there are more than enough breeders to maintain the population), but please don’t be offended if they’d rather see just you, sans baby – it’s really not personal and has nothing to do with your baby, and you would probably appreciate an hour or two away from the adorable little homunculus.

    Overall, it’s probably safest to assume it should be just you, as most people from that first group will directly express interest in seeing the new baby.

    1. Jamie*

      Definitely not universal. I have 3 kids too, and I like kids…and I’d be disappointing if someone did bring their baby to a networking meeting. And I admit I am phased by someone nursing in public – it would make me extremely uncomfortable.

      I know a lot of people who really like kids and very few who would be okay with them in a business meeting, no matter how informal. Not wanting them there =/= not liking kids.

    2. Anonymous*

      Not necessarily true. Quite frankly, I don’t really want to deal with anyone else’s children, except for those related to me.

    3. TL*

      My guess would be that people who really want to see the baby will probably say something about it when planning the meeting, like “ooh, is Darling Angel going to be along?” and people who don’t, won’t.

      1. JMegan*

        Oh, that’s a really good indicator! If the *other* person makes an enthusiastic offer, bring the baby along. If the other adult is anything less than delighted, or if they don’t say anything at all, leave the baby at home. Problem solved – and congratulations!

    4. fposte*

      The corollary to this is that if the person is that enthusiastic about the baby, you’ll be talking mostly about the baby. Which is fine if that’s good for both of you, but that might mean the objective isn’t really achieved.

    5. Mena*

      Please, please do not make this about whether or not the person you are meeting has kids (has kids, can bring baby; doesn’t have kids, can’t bring baby). This is about professional networking, so keep it as such. There will be lots of ‘admire my beautiful baby’ meetings too – this just isn’t one of them.

    6. Colette*

      I don’t have kids, but would be 100% fine with a friend bringing an infant to coffee while she was on mat leave.

      However, if it were a networking meeting instead of coffee with a friend, I would be questioning her judgement, because networking is about work, and there are a very small number of work events where bringing kids is OK. Similarly, I’d question the judgement of someone who brought her spouse to a networking meeting.

      Now, in the case of the former boss who is enthusiastic about seeing the baby, that’s a slightly different situation in that the OP has a pre-existing relationship with the boss (and thus the boss already knows how professional the OP is), and the boss (not the OP) is the one who wants to see the baby.

      1. OP*

        All of the meetings I’m referring to (most of which are folks reaching out to ME) would be with people I’ve worked with previously/already have a relationship with.

        Not at all talking about a colleague-of-a-colleague that I want to connect with. That is, for sure, out.

  7. Miranda Jane*

    Quite surprised to find Alison not answering the full question here. Surely phone conversations are still good, and the second kind of warning (unless you’re okay with an infant along…) seems fine to me for people who aren’t happy with a baby being along – it’s very easy for someone to go for delaying without seeming antisocial as it presents that as the preferred option.

    Obviously baby + in person networking = bad, but is the phone option still viable?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I didn’t answer that because she didn’t ask that — or at least, I think she didn’t ask that. She said that she’s planning to suggest a phone conversation, but is wondering what to do about people who push for a coffee meeting.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My first thought was that they wanted to meet over coffee so they COULD see the baby. I would assume if someone were on maternity leave, they would of course have the baby with them 24/7, and I would expect him/her to come along.

        I don’t know about the OP’s office, but at Exjob and Previous Awful Non-profit Job, if you had a baby, you were expected to bring that kid into the office so we could coo over it!

        1. Saacnmama*

          If it’s backlog you’re trying to work through, I’d say bite the bullet and set up a couple of ridiculous days where you do coffee, lunch & coffee, spaced just far enough apart that the people you’re meeting with don’t run into each other. That lets you get totally into a professional state of mind, and really use the time that someone else is watching the babe (for me, setting up for sitter, pumping & saying goodbye all counted for something).

          Depending on your office, if there are lots of people who want to see baby, I wonder if you could let it be known that you’ll be stopping by with said bundle of joy at a certain date & time, and then hang out in the conference room for everyone to coo and ahh. Take hand sanitizer, because half of them will want to hold the baby!

  8. L*

    Also know that even phone conversations can be difficult with new babies! They are unpredictable and may not stay asleep when that phone rings!

    1. [anon]*

      Mine will be four weeks old on Thursday and I can most certainly attest to that. She has remarkable timing, by which I mean terrible timing.

  9. MARA*

    Are you requesting the meetings or are people requesting the meetings with you? It seems a bit ridiculous for you to have to find/pay for a sitter, when they asked YOU for your time while you’re out on maternity leave. Newborns are way less stressful to have around an adult conversation than a toddler or older child.

    1. TL*

      But some people still don’t want to have them around (me!). That said, it’s fair to say that you can’t get a sitter that day and would rather schedule a phone appointment if somebody asks.

      1. MARA*

        Why do your feelings trump the person you have requested to meet with’s convenience? She is on LEAVE for this very purpose. Maybe it’s because I have been networking a lot lately, but I am grateful when people take time out of their day to speak with me and would not act entitled to inconvenience them further by expecting them to arrange childcare.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s a professional meeting. If you can’t go to it because you don’t have a sitter, it’s fine to say that; she’s on maternity leave, after all, as you pointed out. But it doesn’t follow that you should assume people would be fine with you showing up with a baby for a professional meeting.

          Keep in mind, too, that we don’t know that these people are asking her for a favor — part of networking is maintaining your relationships with people, and that benefits both parties. That could be all this is about (as opposed to a request for a favor, like info on a company or a connection to a job).

    2. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Oh, interesting. When I read that people were reaching out to her it didn’t occur to me that they were essentially asking for her help.

      In that case, I actually think this problem solves itself. Here’s how I’m envisioning this going down:

      Professional Contact: Hey, I’d love to sit down and pick your brain about your work; I’m looking to move into Teapot Processing myself. Is there a time next week we could get together?

      Letter Writer: I’d be happy to chat with you. I just had a baby, so I could do a phone call next week or get together in a couple of months once the nanny starts. What works best for you?

      Contact: *some variation of: “Congratulations! Let’s talk next week. Is Thursday good?” or “Congratulations! Why don’t we wait and get together when I can take you out for coffee?” or “I’d love to meet the baby! Are you up for bringing her along for a meeting sometime sooner?”

      1. OP*

        This is exactly the situation. And my approach. Problem is that when I’m back to work, the chance that I’ll have time for coffee is pretty slim (hence why I have such a backlog….). :) I could *make* time, but I could also do a lot of other things. Mat leave seems like a good opportunity to chip away at the backlog.

  10. Cecilia*

    Agree with Mara here. Newborns usually aren’t that distracting, and anyone who asked you for a networking meeting should be grateful that you’re making it work at all during your maternity leave.

    Now if you were the one looking for a job/initiating the meetings, I’d say leave the baby with a sitter. But if it’s the other party who has asked to catch up, or it’s partly a social visit in the case of your old boss, I don’t see a problem with bringing baby.

  11. Eric*

    For people who reached out to you, I’d put it as an either/or to them of a phone call or a coffee with the baby. The people who don’t want to see the baby can opt for the phone call.

  12. Mena*

    No, please don’t do this unless it is a very close, personal relationship (and I’m thinking there are 3 of these, tops!). As Alison mentions, asking up front puts the person on the spot to have to say ‘no,’ which he/she is unlikely to do. And besides, this shifts all attention to you and the baby and baby-related conversation, which isn’t the purpose of the meeting.

    Better to confine these catch-ups to phone so this beomes a non-issue.

    Also, Congratulations!!!

  13. Kit M.*

    A phrasing like “I’d love to meet; unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to do it without bringing my baby along, so I’d better decline,” might be helpful to avoid putting people on the spot. That way, if someone really doesn’t mind, they can say so, and otherwise they can just agree that it is too bad you can’t get away from the baby.

    1. Kelly O*

      I like this response, actually. Even if you’re just scheduling things, or calling to keep in touch, it could be phrased similarly.

      You might be surprised at the people who will say “don’t worry about it, bring her with you” or who offer to help come up with an alternate arrangement. I think most reasonable people will get that you’re on leave and may not have a daytime sitter set up yet (or the baby might be too young for that) and schedule a face to face meeting farther out, or a phone call, or whatever.

    2. OP*

      This works well. I don’t mind catching up with some of these people, but I’m not going trek all the way into the city AND book a sitter for my 4 week old to help out with their job hunt :). If they are cool with the napping baby and/or can make something work in the evening when my husband is home, that’s fine…

    3. Ellie H.*

      I agree – that’s a great phrasing. It gives the meeting requester an easy and graceful out, and it will get you the exact information you want (whether or not the person would prefer not to meet with a baby present, or really doesn’t mind at all).

    4. Loose Seal*

      I like this a lot. I don’t want to be near any baby that isn’t a relation and this phrasing would make it easy to delay our networking. Sure, I might miss out on it altogether when you get back to work full-speed but at least you’ve given me a graceful way out.

    5. Jessie*

      If someone said that to me, I would assume they meant that they did not want to meet with me because they did not want to bring the baby/because meeting me would be hard at this time. I would never follow up with “bring your baby!” so as not to pressure or inconvenience them.

  14. Kristen*

    For those that have asked to meet you: I may be the cheese that stands alone here, but I’d be more than fine with having the baby there (and I’m just ok with babies- not a big fan, not averse to, just like them ok). Reason is, when I ask to network with someone a) I want to make it as convenient as possiblefor them and b) prefer informal settings. Having the baby there automatically makes the meeting more casual in my mind, which would make me more comfortable (this would be especially true if meeting a new person, which I find more stressful).

    1. Chinook*

      Kristen, I would agree with you that I would be okay to have the baby along if I initiated the networking meeting. Part of this is due to the child being an infant and, while they can make noise or have an ill-timed diaper explosion, my experience with friend’s infants is that they usually sleep through everything.

      Now, if the child is old enough to be out of a child carrier, then the parent has a greater change of not being focused on the meeting due to keeping a child out of potential trouble. And, fair or not, you will be judged on how well your child behaves and how you deal with it. I had a parent misunderstand the ages for a class I am holding and bring her 5 year old son. Because he was so well behaved while he coloured in the back of the room, I would welcome him back anytime and am impressed at how the mom set up her expectations with him and came prepared to keep him quiet and distracted. If this were a networking event, I would so want to hire her based on how she handled a potentialy bad situation.

      1. OP*

        no no no kiddo would be <4 weeks old. If she turns out to be colicky or having a rough day, I'd cancel the meeting and offer –again- to do things by phone.

    2. Nichole*

      I agree with this for me personally. I didn’t get the impression that the OP had any plans to bring the baby to any formal networking lunches, only casual meetups with people she knows well. I don’t fawn over other people’s kids, but I like babies ok and am not phased with others taking a moment to care for a baby while we’re talking. I like the suggestion upthread to say “I’m not quite ready to leave Shaniqua with a babysitter yet,” to which I would almost certainly respond “bring her along, I’d love to see her!” as long as I didn’t get the vibe that it was an excuse not to meet up with me. Likewise, someone who doesn’t like being around babies or had more formal networking in mind has a perfect out to say “no problem, maybe in a few months then.”

  15. Ellie H.*

    Count me definitely in as the kind of person who would feel too weird to say no but would absolutely not want someone to bring a baby. Honestly, if someone said to me “Can I bring a baby along?” to any kind of an appointment, I would immediately find an excuse to reschedule or cancel the appointment. Which I kind of think is the effect the OP actually wants, so maybe that works? I love kids but I have a real thing (borderline – phobia) about babies; I’d rather do literally almost anything else in the entire world than interact with a baby, least of all in a professional setting.

    1. anonA*

      +1 Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel terrible about the fact that I am not a fan of other people’s babies.

      1. the gold digger*

        I don’t even want to be around my friends’ kids most of the time, even though they have nice kids. I want my friend’s uninterrupted attention! I don’t want to share.

        1. Anonny*

          To be fair, Ellie H. herself mentioned that her dislike borders on a phobia, so MARA may have just been taking that seriously.

        2. Anna*

          I’m always suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, so this is not a viable question to me. :) Other than that, a number of people seem to miss the part where these are people asking HER for meetings. I’m with the folk who say if they are asking her, they have to take her availability and caveats. Or they can reschedule/make other arrangements.

          1. Rana*

            I have to admit I’m sort of puzzled about the dog thing here. I know too many people who were bitten by dogs as children to not understand why some people are anxious around them.

            And I can understand the anxiety about being around children, too – they’re often noisy, messy, and not very predictable, especially if you’ve not spent much time around them. I dislike people who act like they’re an alien species that should be shunned, but I do get that they can – and do – make some people uncomfortable, and I think that should be respected.

        3. MARA*

          Babies aren’t dogs or bridges. Babies are just small people. Also, they’re pretty common and/or essential to the continuance of the human race. I’m not saying everyone has to get sprogged up, or become a day care worker, I’m just saying if you have that level of problem with babies, you’re going to find yourself in a LOT of uncomfortable situations and a generally lower quality of life.

          1. TL*

            I’m not fond of babies and I find it surprisingly easy to avoid them without affecting my quality of life. :)

            Also, babies are small, helpless, entirely dependent on others people. I understand being nervous or even phobic around them – they’re a huge responsibility. Even if I’m not the caretaker, I am more nervous about ordinary things around babies.

          2. Parfait*

            I find it pretty easy to avoid them actually, and have arranged my life so that this is the case. I don’t have a fear of them but I do strongly dislike them.

            Once they’re old enough to have a conversation with, then we’re good.

        4. Ellie H.*

          I really appreciate that others think it’s ok not to like being around babies. I can assure you that it hasn’t detracted from my quality of life at all. It isn’t at all difficult in my experience to just avoid them, but to be fair I’m in my late 20’s and only one or two of my friends have had babies so far. I have one close friend whom I was happy to visit at her home, with the baby present and that was fine.

          Honestly it really does rise to the level of a phobia, and it’s associated with another (real) phobia I have that is broader than just babies, and I can appreciate that this is unusual and that nobody really needs to go out of her way to accommodate it. As it happens, I want to have kids myself, and I think it is likely that based on normal biological function, I will not have an aversion to one I am genetically related to but as it happens I actually do plan on “getting it checked out” before embarking upon children-having.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Sorry MARA, I thought you were responding to the post below Ellie’s – I didn’t notice that she herself said it was a borderline phobia.

    2. Hooptie*

      Hey I’m the same way. I didn’t interact with my nieces and nephews at least until they were 8-9 months old. I don’t get excited about kids and do not want them in my professional environment. I do think it is a kind of phobia that I won’t go into more at the risk of offending the parents here.

      1. OP*

        Uh…I’m the OP and I’m right there with you. I actually really like kids (outside of work), but I’m not a baby person. At all. Once they can engage, I find them fun in a nonprofessional setting.

        That said, though, my question is more from the perspective of seeing what I can do to keep up connections during leave– with an obvious preference for phone calls.

        1. Hooptie*

          Yep, understood. I was just letting Ellie know she wasn’t alone since I felt she was being attacked. Seriously I am so scared of dropping a baby or making them cry that I get sick to my stomach at the sight of one sometimes. I just don’t want them around me as it triggers the fear.

          I’m not great with older kids either unless they are very well behaved.

          OP, I think you already have it figured out, and I, for one, greatly appreciate your courtesy and respect for your former colleagues preferences when it comes to the baby. And even though the little things scare me, congratulations.

        2. Saacnmama*

          You’ll be amazed at how quickly babies can engage, once you start paying attention–knowing your voice right away, social smile after a few weeks, learning about hands & teaching out for you & the world, understanding your words in half a year. Babies are built for connection, and need it, far before they are able to converse in complete sentences.

  16. Marina*

    I liked your second phrasing, something along the lines of “I can do a phone meeting on X Y or Z days, but an in person meeting may have to wait a few months unless you’re okay with me bringing my newborn along.” If they’re okay with babies, they will be VERY enthusiastic about letting you know it, believe me. If they’re not, they have several options for when you’re available without a baby in two.

  17. Cruella Da Boss*

    “…and they cry and have to be taken outside…”

    I wish parents thought this way! (Before the hate mail starts, let me remind everyone, I am the mother of four)

    Hardly anyone takes their temper-tantrum-throwing , screaming baby/toddler “out” these days. Parent just sit/stand there , minding to other business, while Darling Angel emits ear-splitting screams at the top of his lungs, and/or stamps her feet, or lays down in the aisle, blocking it from other buggy-weidling shoppers ,who are trying to escape the chaos. Nor do they discipline said child for their tantrum, or apologize for subjecting others to Darling Angel’s antics.

    (Can you tell this has recently happened to me at the local Target?)

    OP….If the meeting is more socially geared, I would ask if the other person would mind. If it is more professionally based, then I would arrange for a sitter.

    I know this may sound odd to a new, first time mother, but you may just enjoy getting away and speaking with adults without Junior in tow.

    1. Jamie*

      Amen. It’s doing your children a favor to teach them that if they can’t behave in publicly acceptable ways they will be removed from the public.

      We owe it to our kids to make sure they grow up into adults other people find pleasant to be around. Manners cost nothing – I don’t know why some parents are so stingy with teaching them.

    2. Andrea*

      Yeah, I hear you. That’s how my parents raised me—if I dared to make a fuss even 1/10 the size of that I see/hear from children when I venture out to buy groceries, they’d have dropped everything to take me outside and set me straight (verbally, and with the scariest facial expressions ever) about what was acceptable and what was not. That only happened a couple of times before I learned to behave myself; same with my sister. I don’t know why parents think differently now, but I bet that if more of them taught their kids basic manners, I would enjoy being around them. As it is, I avoid children and places that they like to be, because I just can’t stand the noise or their inconsiderate parents. But besides all that, not every place or context is for kids; some are only for adults. I’d count professional networking meetings as adults-only in every instance. I can’t imagine an exception.

      1. Andrea*

        (Sorry, I meant “some parents think differently now.” I know it isn’t all of them. It does seem like the majority of parents expect every place to be kid-friendly and other people to deal with their children’s tantrums and such, though.)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I absolutely agree, and what Jamie said. My parents had no hesitation in removing us if we acted up, to the point of leaving a full grocery cart if necessary. If (please) I have a kid, I will do the same thing. Making a scene is rude if you are an adult, and since kids don’t have the self-control adults (are supposed to!) have, it’s up to Mom and Dad to show them how important it is.

      Also, having to leave the movie theater without seeing the latest kidflick because you threw a tantrum is a very relevant consequence.

      1. Chinook*

        And as someone who hated retocking shelves in retail, I would more than gladily taken the full cart from you because you were makign everyone’s lives more pleasurable by doing something uncomfortable in the short term.

    4. Chinook*

      You are preaching to the choir! I have a lot of repsect for a parent who can take their crying child out of a room. We all know that babies and children cry and it can’t be controlled but their presence can. And cryign children can be a true distraction. I once was singing where a baby was crying so loud that I could hear the pianist and had to remember to focus on the notes and note tune to the pitch of the baby because it was that distracting.

  18. Ursula*

    Do the people with whom you will be meeting know that you are out on maternity leave? I honestly can’t imagine setting up coffee with someone in that situation and not expect her to bring the baby. It is tough to find someone to care for a new baby, unless you happen to have family around.

  19. Jess*

    I’m very, very much NOT a kid/baby person and don’t ever plan to have them. That being said, very small babies can often be very quiet and not distracting. If the baby is usually fussy then don’t bring it but if it’s generally a quiet baby, I don’t see the problem. Just don’t expect me to act interested in it besides an obligatory congratulations, (s)he’s cute.

  20. Stephanie*

    My daughter is 5 months old. Frankly, there is NO WAY that I would have been able to have any sort of professional networking with my daughter there while I was on maternity leave. Your baby may be different — but I don’t think you’ll be able to really know until he or she is here.

    I laughed at the comment from a previous poster about how it is easier to carry on a conversation in a restaurant with a newborn. My daughter is generally a really easy going baby — not colicky by any measure — but taking her out in public is a crapshoot even now. And that is because she is a baby — babies cry, poop, drool, spit up, etc…. And just when you think your baby will have a good routine down he or she is going to change it on you! Babies go through so many growth spurts in the first six months and during a growth spurt a normally happy perfect baby can be a little creature of grumpiness (I say this all in love).

    Also OP, I know where you are coming from on the hope to accomplish all this other stuff while on your maternity leave… just please don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. I had to learn that it was all just extra. Maternity leave is about mom healing and baby bonding. Your hormones are going to go crazy, your body is going to change, and you are going to have to learn how to survive on way less sleep than you ever thought possible. All while being entrusted to keep a completely helpless little baby alive and thriving. (No pressure, right?) So maybe some other moms can do it all and still have energy/time for networking in those first few months… but don’t be upset with yourself if you can’t!

    1. Spiny*

      I second this. I ended up having a c-section and the recovery time was rough. (Who knew invisible ab muscles still get used?) It takes so much effort to get out of the house on time and most babies do not have a schedule for a while.
      I would strongly encourage phone connections for your own sake or plan on waiting until later on in your leave. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, they recommend waiting a month before using pacifiers or bottles of pumped milk, limiting your time away.
      That said, adult conversations are missed right now. You may find yourself looking forward to them!
      Not making the baby optional seems like your best bet-“I can certainly meet in person if you prefer, but I’ll be bringing little South East with me as I’m on maternity leave- would that still work for you?”

    2. Chinook*

      Aaahhh..but infants have one advantage over any child that is mobile – when you put them down, they stay there and don’t go to the other side of the room and knock over a tray of glasses.

      You will note, though, that I said it was EASIER with an infant, not EASY. A life full of easy social commitments went on the window the moment little junior was born.

    3. Working Mom*

      This! I was doing very very good to go anywhere without spit up or other bodily fluids on my clothes for months. The OP may be much better at this than I was, but until I had a newborn I could never have imagined how difficult a task leaving the house could be.

  21. clobbered*

    Does this baby sleep? I had work meetings while on maternity leave, baby had a very predictable nap-time after a late morning feed – slept like a, uh, baby in the carrier for an hour, plenty of time to have a meeting so I scheduled it all in that slot. Helped that my workplace had a feeding spot so I got the most of the whole sleeping period.

  22. Kou*

    It looks like I’m the only one, but if I set up an informal meeting with someone who was on maternity leave, I would neither be surprised nor bothered if they brought the baby with them. Under any other circumstance I would be miffed for sure, but when someone has a NEW newborn they have specifically taken leave off work to spend time with… If I really didn’t want to see the baby, I would wait until she was getting back from that.

    And I’m not a baby person *at all.* But I do feel like it’s silly to ask someone to meet you as a favor while they’re on maternity leave and then be upset they brought their baby.

    That said, since you never know with people, if I was the OP I would still be err on the side of no baby. I’m just surprised that it seems everyone would be annoyed if the baby was there. I like the “well I’d have to bring the baby, so we should do it by phone” response so they can make a choice without feeling awkward.

    1. Cat*

      You’re not the only one. If I was meeting up for coffee with a colleague on parental leave, I’d assume they’d have their baby with them.

    2. Mena*

      Not sure Mom-to-be is being asked to network as a favor. It sounds like Mom-to-be is trying to use the leave time to network.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That was my thought as well. It sounded like the former colleagues contacted her through LinkedIn, maybe because that was where they knew to contact her. If they knew she was on maternity leave, they probably aren’t doing it to network, but perhaps to see the baby and see how she’s doing.

      2. OP*

        Question was twofold:
        (1) people reaching out to ME to network (ie “looking to make a move, do you have time for coffee?” or “would love to pick your brain about X or Y”). They don’t know I’ll be on mat leave. My plan is to say “I’m going on leave for 4 months- do you mind a phone call?” and if they really push for the coffee/in person, I’d like to bring the baby along (not to oogle, but to avoid having to get a sitter to help someone out).

        (2) reach out to former colleagues to keep up relationships. Would say something like “am on mat leave so any time you have a 20 minutes free, would love to chat!” My question for this type of conversation was how to handle it when the other person pushes for an in-person instead.

        1. fposte*

          Are you making your actual mat leave meetup plans now, or are you just planning for how you might plan after the baby’s here? I’m hoping the second–the first seems a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

  23. Lily in NYC*

    I’ll admit I’m not much of a kid person, but I would be happy to meet a coworker’s new baby in this sort of situation. Especially considering newborns are usually asleep – I have to assume it’s easier to take your new baby out for coffee than to take an active toddler.

    1. Windchime*

      I agree. I visit Starbuck’s nearly every day (I don’t stay, just a quick stop) and I have seen lots of newborns quietly napping in their strollers while Mom has coffee. Toddlers? Not so much. Screaming, kicking, running……ugh.

      I have two (grown) kids of my own, but I normally don’t want to put up with other peoples’ kids when they’re acting like that. And I think that taking a newborn to a “networking coffee” would have to be a case-by-case decision. As we see here in the comments, some people are going to be fine with it and others won’t be.

    2. Cruella Da Boss*

      Newborns do not always sleep. My twins slept in shifts, so one was ALWAYS AWAKE. I was worn to a frazzle! I thought that I would have to drug them to get them to both sleep. Very ugly time for all in the household, including the oldest sibling.

      1. Windchime*

        My newborns were screamers, too. So I am envious of those parents who have newborns that sleep all the time. I know they exist because I’ve seen them, but mine were not that way either.

  24. Jen*

    If this is your first child, wait to schedule meetings at all until you know how you feel. I had two c-sections and physically I was out of it for about a month. Then, with the first baby, the whole process of getting out of the house was overwhelming. Four months seems like a long time but if you have any complications or PPD, just going to Target will be impossible. I know that’s not exactly what you’d asked but be very vague about plans. Don’t fill your calendar until you know for sure you can handle these meetings.

    1. Dr. Speakeasy*

      AGREE. I worked through most of my “leaves” (even answering emails in the hospital – hey, when else are you going to have a full nursing staff at your beck and call). But, if this is your first you don’t know if baby will be early or late (so that 4 week old might only be 2 weeks old), if they will have reflux, and YOU need time to heal.

      That being said – I also thought that if people are asking for your time use one of the phrasings listed above so they can opt for phone call or opt out but if they want to meet with you they get baby too. For you asking to meet with others, baby stays home.

    2. Chinook*

      I agree about not scheduling until after the birth. If you have a c-section, you may not have the option to carry baby with you. Plus, if, heaven forbid/knock on wood/the fates better not be listening, something bad were to happen with the pregnancy or birth, you don’t want to have to add cancelling meetings or explaining why you missed one to things you need to worry about.

  25. Rachel*

    I think this is another situation of knowing your field and your network. I have done close to a hundred coffees/meetings with a baby. Most times it went beautifully. A couple of times (like 3 out of 100) I had to apologize and leave early. This is in the ministry/ youth development field. I did always ask beforehand about whether I could bring the baby or a phone call would be better. Good luck and congratulations!

  26. Loose Seal*

    I don’t want to presume anything about your relationship status but if there is another parent, why not schedule the networking sessions when he/she is off work and can stay home with the child?

  27. Librarian*

    I will echo some others above and say that you should wait to see how you really feel when you’re on maternity leave. Also, your newborn may be one that is quiet and sleeps through everything, or he/she might be like mine, and scream bloody murder whenever their in a different environment. There is absolutely no way I could have taken her to a networking meeting, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to have a productive phone call either.

    I also thought that mat leave would be a great time to get things done, but it is not quite that way once you see the reality. Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment if it turns out that you can’t actually do these meetings.

    As to your question, I would only bring the baby if people asked me to, and then no networking would really be going on. There’s nothing wrong with that if people just want to snorgle your baby. :)


  28. Editor*

    My firstborn would not nap (in another room of the house out of sight of visitors) when there were visitors. It’s like she had a sixth sense that told her Other People were nearby. This happened even when a surprise visitor appeared and she was already asleep.) No matter how tired, she also would not fall asleep in a public place because she didn’t want to miss any action, and that personality trait turned out to be permanent.

    Once I gave a tea party for a group of parents I was friends with. One baby scalded himself when he knocked his mom’s teacup and splashed hot water all over. I still feel awful about that more than 30 years later. Unless the baby can be in a carrier out of reach of the coffee, being close to hot drinks isn’t a good idea, at home or elsewhere.

    Those are my experiences. In addition, I agree that you shouldn’t schedule until after the birth. It isn’t just c-sections that can slow you down. (My list of birthing stuff that can tire even a fit new mom has been deleted here.) Don’t expect to have a worst-case scenario, but don’t lock your expectations into place for after the birth until it is after the birth.

  29. Anne*

    I just wanted to say that the phrase “terrible diaper incident” made me grin, and I will probably be using it in the future.

  30. Commsie*

    I understand the arguments on both sides, but as a woman who is not super crazy about babies but would probably like to have one AND a career one day, I’m keen on making things easier for working mothers. I think that bringing your baby along might be a little unconventional, but if the alternative is just not engaging with your network at all, I say bring the baby and stay active in your career.

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